10 Lessons From my First Year as an {Adult} Expat

One year ago today, this happened…

We took off from Houston and (two days later) landed in a new country, Australia, and a new home, Brisbane.

As you may or may not know, I spent the majority of the first 14 years of my life as an expat kid. Now they have a fancy name for that, third culture kid. Whatever you want to call it- I spent most of my formative years outside of the United States.

That being said, when we told people that we were moving to Australia most of them responded with something along the lines of “that won’t be too much of a change for  you.” Obviously I only know my perspective and to me it was a completely different experience than when I was just aimlessly following around my parents as they navigated all of the logistics of living abroad. I plan one day to compare the two in a post, but that day is not today. Today I want to share ten things that I have learned in my first year as a grown-up expat.


1. You can do scary things

Once you are out of your comfort zone a lot of things that never seemed daunting or intimidating before all of the sudden are terrifying. For me starting to work in the schools was terrifying, especially not knowing where or who I would be working with every day. The first few days I was available I remember crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t get called. Now that I have been working for several months I love my job and can’t believe I considered giving up before I even gave it a chance. Also, I used to cry almost every time I tried to drive our standard car and thought I would be riding the bus the rest of our time here. Compared to what a lot of people living in much different or less westernized countries have to accomplish it doesn’t seem like a feat at all. But no matter where you are or what the challenge is, you can do it! Plus, you will be so proud of yourself when you conquer that fear.

2. Things may be different- but that doesn’t mean they are worse

Living in Australia I feel like Americans that often move here see that it looks like the US and sounds (somewhat) like the US so they assume everything must be the same. We are literally on the opposite side of the world, things are not going to be exactly like they are at home.  You have to remember that different doesn’t mean that they are worse. You adjust and then who knows you might actually like their way better.

3. Your husband/significant other is your best friend

Obviously I knew that before (that’s why we got married) but moving across the world and not knowing a soul has just made us even closer. Without the support system of friends and family to lean on, we have had to rely on each other more than we ever would back home. We have had the most fun spending our weekends exploring our new home just the two of us.

4. People really can’t identify American accents

I get Canadian, Polish and Irish more than I get American. But mostly Canadian, because apparently Canadians get offended if you ask if they are American so they always guess Canadian first.

5. Alone time isn’t so bad after all

I used to be one of those people that hated to be alone. When Travis would go out of town, I would immediately be looking for someone to hang out with. Those first few weeks after we moved and Travis was at work all day, I had to get real used to flying solo. Now as much as I enjoy other people’s company after socializing I crave that time to myself.

6. Everyone does not idolize the US

Coming from the United States I assumed most Western countries thought the US was the end all, be all. Not that people bash the US (to me, at least) it is surprising to hear people say they have no interest in visiting the United States or go on about how unsafe it is.

7. You can maintain your relationships back home… if you make the effort

When my parents left for their first overseas assignment in the 80’s keeping in touch meant pricy long distance phone calls and writing those ancient things we call letters. Now with Skype, FaceTime, iMessage and all 9876 forms of social media staying in touch is much easier. BUT with the time difference it does take being intentional to keep those relationships in tact. Setting up phone dates and keeping a world clock set to Houston and London time has helped me avoid waking up my friends and family in the middle of the night. 🙂

8. I can survive without ALL that stuff

We moved from a four bedroom house with a yard to a small, two bedroom loft that doesn’t even have a patio. Before we moved we got rid of all of our furniture and TONS of other belongings (clothes, decorations etc) and still have a whole storage unit of things back at home. Luckily Trav’s company took care of the move for us, but there are lots of great removalist companies out there such as this interstate removals company that have great reviews online. Do I miss any of that stuff packed away? Nope. In fact, I have made multiple donation trips in the past year. It turns out we can do just fine without any fancy kitchen gadgets (or even a microwave) or extra closets filled with clothes we might someday wear. Minimalism is where it’s at.

9. Making friends as an adult is hard but you can do it

Real talk- I googled “How to make friends as an adult” when we first got here. It’s real awkward at first but you just have to put yourself out there. I made friends going to workout classes and I even met one of my best friends on a Facebook group for expats in Australia, definitely not something I would have done a year ago but now I have meaningful friendships as a result.

10. Everyday is an adventure

Rarely would I have ever considered our weekends in Houston as an adventure of any sort. Now I see that an adventure doesn’t mean jotting off to a foreign country or jumping out of an airplane, but every day can be an adventure. Being tourists in our adopted country (and city) turns any weekend into an adventure. We have loved planning out trips and picking new destinations to explore that are in our own backyard.

Sidetone: when you are new in a city and don’t know the public transportation system and/or roads well, every day is reallllllly an adventure. My mom used to always say “We aren’t lost unless we are out of gas, we are just on an adventure” (this was pre google maps and GPS technology, so we were always lost).

If you have made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading my long winded rambles and don’t worry I will be back with photo heavy travel posts next time. 🙂

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Santa Fe Wridgways Moving Services.

45 thoughts on “10 Lessons From my First Year as an {Adult} Expat

  1. Can relate to nearly all of these- especially 3,5 & 7! Since moving here, aside from my uncle and his partner, I don’t know anyone. It’s made my relationship with M so much stronger that i’m a little worried that if he gets a job similar to his previous (he’s currently job-searching and his previous job was fly-in fly-out), i’m not too sure what I’m going to do! It’s funny how reliant you become on one another when it is literally the only person you know in your city- although as you say it will be good to become accustom to my own company again and reach out to other expats. The time difference at home definitely makes it so difficult to sustain friendships- I’ve definitely had some friendships fizzle out since moving here, but I’m still left with a good group of friends back at home!

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

    • I found the time difference to the UK to be frustrating because my mom would always be free to call right when we were eating dinner or out. Those nights at the house alone though were perfect for phone dates with my mom. I would be eating dinner and she would be eating breakfast. With the US it’s hard because by the time I get off work everyone is asleep.

  2. I’m pretty much the same too. I enjoy spending time with myself too, and I have really put myself out there when it comes to friendships. Haven’t been successful at all of them but hey at least I am trying! And I agree 100%, every day is an adventure here!

  3. I really love this post! I can identify with so much of this. D has to be my boyfriend, partner in crime, and my girlfriend now that it’s mostly just me and him 24/7 together. We have a lot of fun most of the time, but sometimes I really like being alone too!! I’ll get out and explore on my own just because I need to be by myself.
    Best of luck on year 2!

  4. Making friends as an adult is so hard. I actually found it easier making friends when I was an expat in Canada then in Melbourne.
    I was also asked if I was from: NZ, Ireland, England and South Africa before Australia. Sigh.

  5. I remember having to learn to drive a standard car when we moved to Scotland. Not only did I find that incredibly difficult, it was even worse having to learn to drive on the other side of the road. I was a big fan of taking the bus and train instead of driving 🙂

    • It is so hard at first! Now I have just become lazy because I can get places so much quicker if I drive. I think it probably helped that I never drove a standard on the right side so I didn’t have any re-teaching to do to my instincts. It was still SO hard though.

  6. Great post. I grew up in Houston and then moved to Malaysia a few years ago (and then back to Texas). Everyone assumed I was a Malaysian who spoke really good English. #6 is so true. Having immigrant parents whose dream-come-true was moving to the USA, I assumed that the rest of the world was as in love the America as they were. Not true! Malaysians also think Texas is all cowboys, horses and gunslingers. I hope #2 is wonderful for you. We really enjoyed our visit to Australia because it really, really made us feel like we were in America (compared to Asia).

    • To be fair I think some people in other parts of the US think that about Texas too haha. But being from there always brings up the gun control topic with locals here. Not exactly friendly ice breaker conversation. We are going to Thailand and Vietnam next month and I am excited but a little nervous because I know it will be serious culture shock.

  7. As someone who’s never been an expat, I found this really interesting. I’ve moved around the UK quite a bit, so the bits about making grownup friends and not losing the old ones rang true. Also, as a Brit, I’m often mistaken for a German. Interestingly, this is usually when my hair is blonde….

  8. Girl, I cannot agree more with this post! Especially idolizing America (why are we SO bigheaded! lol) and also alone time. Now, I seriously NEED alone time to function!

  9. Lindsay L Hess says:

    Okay I really love your mom’s “We’re not lost unless we run out of gas, we’re on an adventure” thing. Also YES to number 3. Not that I have firsthand experience or anything, it just seems like a really fantastic way to bond on a different level.

  10. SO much of this is true. I wish I’d thought of this post 😉 I get Canadian all the time too. Uhm, except maybe Hawaii and the tip of Florida, Houston Texas is the furthest place from Canada in the US. Oh well. I’m terrible at identifying accents too.

    7 = perfection. You gotta make the effort. Isn’t it interesting the ones that don’t make the effort?

  11. Love this post – agree with so many of these points! Especially the one about your husband being your best friend – moving abroad together will really show you how strong your marriage is. Also making friends as an adult, so much different to when you are at Uni! Also, I’m Canadian and get asked if I’m American (or Irish, or English, etc) and don’t worry I’m not offended 😉

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